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Bennett, (Sir) William Sterndale

Bennett, (Sir) William Sterndale (b Sheffield, 1816; d London, 1875). Eng. composer, pianist, and teacher. Chorister at King's, Cambridge, at 7 and went 2 years later to newly founded RAM in London. Learned vn., pf., and comp. (with Crotch). Later was taught by Cipriani Potter. A pf. conc. written when he was 16 was heard a year later by Mendelssohn, who invited him to Ger. For 3 more years stayed at the RAM, composing 5 syms. and 3 more pf. concs. In one of these was soloist at a Phil. Soc. concert at the age of 19. In 1836 visited Leipzig where he became a friend of Schumann, who praised his work highly. Played his own concs. at Gewandhaus concerts. After marriage in 1844, career restricted to Eng., where he took on several demanding executive and admin. duties such as cond. of Phil. Soc. (1856–66), founder of Bach Soc., and, also in 1856, prof. of mus., Cambridge Univ. Cond. f. Eng. p. of J. S. Bach's St Matthew Passion, 1854. In 1866 became prin., RAM. Knighted 1871.

The reasons for Schumann's perhaps extravagant praise are now a little easier to judge, since some of Sterndale Bennett's music has been recorded. Undoubtedly his powers as a composer were lessened by the load of official work he undertook. In his lifetime his most popular works were the pastoral cantata The May Queen (Leeds Fest. 1858) and the oratorio The Woman of Samaria (Birmingham Fest. 1867). Other works incl. ov. The Naiads. Schumann's Symphonic Studies are ded. to him.

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Bennett, Sir William Sterndale

Sir William Sterndale Bennett, 1816–75, English musician. Bennett was a friend of Mendelssohn and Schumann, both of whom influenced his work. Besides composing, he was active as a pianist and conductor. He founded the Bach Society and in 1854 gave the first public British performance of the St. Matthew Passion. Bennett's compositions include a symphony, four piano concertos, and much solo piano music.

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